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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Things With Wings In Africa #1, Ngoima

Raheel Mughal's list of Lesser-known African Cryptids comes to item number 8:
Ngoima: The Monkey Eating Eagle The Ngoima was seen by visiting French political commissioner André Mouelle during the early twentieth century. He described it as eagle-like, dark brown to black (black above, with a lighter shade below), and it is described as having a hooked beak. It is also described as having a wingspan of 9-13 ft (4.2 metres) and it said to possess sharp talons. Furthermore, it is said to prey on monkeys and small goats and is thought to prefer forests (where it nests on the tallest trees) and in some cases open savannah. Unfotunately, this is the only report that the author is aware off. Based on the somewhat detailed description above, the Ngoima may represent a subspecies of Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus (the Ngoima having a larger wingspan at 9-13 ft as opposed to the Martial Eagle’s 5 ft).

To which I appended my remark:
8)Ngoima sounds very interesting and I have my own ideas as to what kind of an eagle it is. But it is definitely "Just" a very large eagle of dark colour.

The bird I have selected is a migrant and not thought to be a permenent resident of tropical Africa: the Lammergeier, booted eagle or bearded vulture. It is one of the largest birds and nearly as large as a New World condor. Furthermore since there is the one report only, the estimated wingspan of possibly 9-to-13 feet can be founded off to about ten feet, which matches the Lammergeier.

Now here is the trick to it: the described bird does not seem to be the same as the bird that was sighted. The monkey-eating eagle is plainly enough a form of crowned eagle, the African analogue to the Harpy eagle in Latin America. It is smaller in wingspan to the martial eagle but may be heavier: it needs the shorter wingspan to be able to navigate in dense jungle growth where it does indeed feed on monkeys and nest in the treetops. Photos of it are at the top of this blog entry. The Lammergeier's wingspan is almost twice as wide as the African crowned (Monkey-eating) eagle. The crowned eagle needs to be smaller in order to live that lifestyle and therefore the identification of the bigger bird with the much larger wingspan as the monkey-eating eagle seems to have been an error made by a non-native.

This is not the only time we shall see Lammergeiers turn up in Cryptozoological discussions-far from it. Another instance has gotten mixed up in the "Namibian Flying Snake" problem by Mackal and so passed along in Eberhart's Mysterious Creatures. There are reports of a very large soaring/gliding bird said to have a wingspan up to thirty feet. Part of the evidence is that it hhas left ostrich bones on top of kopjes (stone outcroppings)as remains of its meals. Lammergeiers habitually feed on the marrow in bones and in order to break the bones open, they carry bones aloft and drop them onto rocks below. So that the dehaviour as described fits a Lammergeier and not any other sort of flying creature.

Lammergeiers are also said to carry off lambs, dogs and small children, much the same as claimed in the case of condors. The experts have generally discounted such stories as impossible.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. Dear Mr. Drinnon,

    Greetings from Abiva Publishing House, Inc.!

    Abiva is a Philippine publisher offering textbooks in basic education. One of our authors wishes to include in her Grade 8 textbook entitled Abiva High School Science and Technology the photo of Ngoima (with dead monkey) featured in your blog.

    In light of this, may we respectfully request your permission to reprint the photo in case you own the copyright. We would also appreciate it if you would check the accuracy of the citation indicated.

    Citation: Dale A. Drinnon, Frontiers of Zoology

    We sincerely hope for your favorable response to our request. Please send us your reply stating your permission and/or other conditions we need to comply with. Should you have other inquiries or concerns, please don’t hesitate to drop us a message at

    Thank you.


    Book Development Coordinator
    Abiva Publishing House, Inc.
    851 G. Araneta Ave., Quezon City, Philippines
    Tel. No. (632) 712-0245 loc. 226
    Fax No. (632) 712-0486

  2. This is an awkward and peculiar situation but I suppose the only way to deal with it is straightforewardly. The photo came up for me on a google photo search and I have it posted here under the condition that it is not being used for commercial purposes. It would not be right for you to credit me as the source and it would not be right for me to grant you permission to use it commercially. The best I can do is say that you contacted me about it and then look the other way, if necessary. The bottom line is I cannot stay your hand if you choose to use the photo nor would I be in the legal category of the photograph's actual owner. I have it here under the definition of Fair Use.


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